May 12, 2021

Where Should You Buy Your Books?

Supporting small presses, which have strained to weather the industry’s fluctuations during the pandemic, can take the form of shopping from independent bookstores. These stores and presses often have relationships to each other, Ms. Hill said. “Independent bookstores support independent publishers. That’s a tight community,” she said. “The book industry is such a delicate ecosystem. Supporting independent bookstores keeps the ecosystem healthy.”

Some small publishers sell directly from their websites, including Melville House, Akashic Books and Future Tense Books.

Second choice: Barnes Noble is also a crucial part of the book retail ecosystem, Ms. Hill said, and a crucial outlet for writers and publishers. The key is to “spread it around,” Ms. McKean said. “If we only shop at one retailer, that’s bad for everybody.”

It’s hard to beat Amazon on shipping speed. The retail giant offers free domestic shipping between five to eight days of ordering for all users and two-day shipping for Amazon prime members.

Second choice: Any order placed before noon on will ship that same day, said Mr. Hunter.

Amazon also largely wins out on price. “Most indie bookstores will be transparent with the fact that oftentimes, we can’t compete with Amazon on prices,” said James Odum, communications director for The Strand bookstore in New York City.

Second choice: Barnes Noble also tends to offer significant discounts, especially online.

For readers seeking the largest possible range of reading options, Amazon features over three million books available online. Book recommendations are surfaced through both an algorithm customized to the individual user and through an updated list from Amazon book editors.

Second choice: “Independent bookstores can order nearly any book anyone wants,” said Mr. Graham. Beyond the breadth of selection, independent bookstores have the benefit of more curated selections, with individual booksellers advocating for their favorite books. “There’s really no algorithm equivalent to it,” said Amy Stephenson, a representative for the Booksmith in San Francisco.

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